3°C temperature rise if southern Africa fails to tackle climate change

2013-09-29 06:00

As South Africa grapples with the need for a third new power station, the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report, released this week in Stockholm, shows fossil fuels are causing havoc with the planet’s climate.

Human influence on the climate system is clear, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its new report, the first since 2007.

The scientists’ message is that climate change is very much a reality and we now have more evidence than ever to back up the claims.

“The report is highly relevant,” said Guy Midgley, a South African scientist on the panel.

“The process is quite unique and extraordinary the way it brings science and policy makers together.”

Environmental groups Greenpeace, Earthlife Africa and groundWork protested at Eskom and the department of trade and industry on Friday as the controversial report was released.

It paints a dark picture of the future of the planet if the world does not act now by cutting its greenhouse gasses.

Though there is no analysis for individual countries, the report says Africa, Asia and Australia will be particularly hard hit.

Midgley said the report dealt with two scenarios – a low- and high-emission scenario.

He said the report tells us that cutting emissions from now on will make a big difference to South Africa’s temperature.

In southern Africa, for the low-emissions scenario, the temperature increase will be well less than 2°C if we can curb our emissions significantly. But for the high scenario, warming would be well above 3°C and even higher than 4°C, Midgley said.

It could well be over 5°C for countries like Botswana.

Makoma Lekalakala, programme officer at Earthlife Africa in Johannesburg, says “the only logical conclusion” is that we have to stop building coal-fired power stations in order to mitigate climate change.

Last month, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies proposed that South Africa built another power station to cope with energy demand in South Africa.

But this week, Science Minister Derek Hanekom questioned whether building another coal power station was the appropriate path for South Africa, considering the effects of climate change.

Greenpeace’s Melita Steel said the longer the world kept on burning fossil fuels and clearing forests, the worse our chances of facing climate chaos become.

“Coal 3 is likely to sabotage the South African economy rather than reignite it,” she said.

“Building yet another coal-fired power station seems to both ignore the grim science behind potentially catastrophic climate change as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said after the release of the report he would invite leaders to a special summit next year to try to kick-start the stalled negotiations on a global climate deal on emissions.

“The heat is on. We must act,” he said.

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